(Credit: Lee Campbell)

Essential Listening: This week's best new music

We are now in the middle of May, which continues to serve up sonic treats that have lit up an otherwise dark year. On the bright side, nights are only getting lighter, and the patio heaters at beer gardens bring in a new sense of normality. For the first time in a long while, everything is beginning to look up once more. The mouth-watering thought of watching your favourite artist in the summer with an ice-cold beverage in hand at a festival no longer seems out of reach and feels in reaching distance following Blossoms’ show in Liverpool last week.

After a year without live music, normal life as we used to know it is now in spitting distance. If you’re needing something to stick on the summer playlist while having a well-earned rest this weekend, then we’ve got you covered. There’s no shame in wanting to spin some old classics, but these fresh tracks are perfect additions that will sound blistering through a Bluetooth speaker.

There has been a stream of blissful new sounds throughout the year that has offered a fine way to stay sane and get those dopamine receptors active. As the months have gone on, there’s been more and more titillating releases, with these past seven days being no different.

Even though playing live for an audience is an impossible dream for musicians right now, that hasn’t stopped artists from continuing to offer up fresh and exciting music straight out of the bedroom studio. Some of the new releases to have come out in 2021 have made it an exciting year for music. Through these turbulent times, music has been a constant release for many of us and kept us going. That feeling of discovering a new artist, one you connect with straight away, is hard to replicate.

Whether it is a song by an artist that you’ve never heard of before — or an old favourite that somehow you have allowed to fall off your radar — we’ve got you covered here.

This week’s best new music:

Little Simz – ‘Woman’ ft. Cleo Sol

There’s no way around it: this track is just smooth as hell. From the Soulquarians-esque backing track to the easy flow of Simz’s verses to the sweetly melodic hook delivered by Cleo Sol, it all mixes together in a fantastically resplendent fashion while retaining an utterly chill vibe.

Simz gives a shout out to Donna Summers, who rightly gets props for her innovations and influence over the ’80s music scene, but I get a much heavier Erykah Badu feel from these proceedings. Whatever it might compare to, the truth is that at the end of the day, it’s all Little Simz, and it’s all about bringing the party.

Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth – ‘Chase It Down’

When we first heard from the unlikely duo, it was in the form of the slow-burning melancholic ballad ‘Remember We Were Lovers’. Through the release of that single, we also got word that the pair were releasing a full-length duet album together, Utopian Ashes, set for a summer release.

‘Remember We Were Lovers’ had shades of ’80s duets like the kind you would expect from Kenny Rogers or Lionel Richie, but ‘Chase It Down’ time warps back a decade into the era of the disco ballad. Gillespie gets to pour his heart out during the verses while stabs of strings and wah-wah guitar turn his innermost tumult into a devilishly funky groove. Beth serves as the hook singer, belting out the chorus with a fantastic blend of vitriolic venom and palpable regret. “Free fall from the love/Who is gonna come and save us now?”

Barney Artist and Mr Jukes – ‘Vibrate’

Barney Artist and Mr Jukes have revealed their upcoming collaborative album, The Locket, which arrives on July 2nd. On top of the exciting announcement, the duo have shared their breezy new single, ‘Vibrate’.

Speaking about the track, Barney explains: “‘Vibrate’ was the very last song we made for the album. It really summarises mine and Jack’s relationship which is great vibes with a meaningful message.” “The aim is to bring hope to people after the maddest year,”the rapper adds about the album.

The sunny new track is a glistening effort that evokes feelings of spending endless days in the park and enjoying the brighter side of life once again. As the world prepares to get back to normality this summer, The Locket might just be that slice of sunshine in your pocket that soundtracks the better days that wait around the corner.

St. Vincent – ‘Down’

St. Vincent has continued to tease her forthcoming new album, Daddy’s Home, with her velvety new single, ‘Down’. There’s no shortage of warped glamour on ‘Down’, and it’s the strongest track shared by Clark from her forthcoming sixth album. There’s an infectious chorus, and her divine relationship with melody is clear for all to see, which makes it a thrilling listen.

The combination of Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent is a delight. The duo co-produced the track together, and their partnership continues to coax out a luxurious sound out of Clark like on 2017’s Masseducation.

There’s no hiding the ’70s influence that perches heavily over ‘Down’, and St. Vincent might not be reinventing the wheel. Still, the amalgamation of the hand-crafted killer chorus and a truckful of funky energy thrown into the track makes it impossible not to enjoy.

Easy Life – ‘Have A Great Day’

With their debut album, Life’s A Beach, swimming to shore at the end of the month — Easy Life have shared another snippet from the highly anticipated record with their new single, ‘Have A Great Day’.

Sometimes in life, you just need to sit back in order to reflect and celebrate life’s little victories; that is exactly what Easy Life do on ‘Have A Great Day’. It’s a snapshot conversational track that showcases frontman Murray Matravers’ expert storytelling and his ability to write intricate lyrics that never veer into cliched ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ territory and yet still connect on a universal level.

‘Have A Great Day’ encapsulates the little anxieties of a romantic adventure, and in the end, it wasn’t worth the time misspent worrying. The track is a much-needed shot of hope right now, and Life’s A Beach can’t come quick enough.

Joel Culpepper – ‘Black Boy’

London’s own Joel Culpepper has released the newest single from his forthcoming debut LP Sgt. Culpepper, the spritely and powerful ‘Black Boy’.

“I feel there have been so many important songs that address black men,” Culpepper explained, “But I wanted to hear a song that universally celebrated being a black lad with an upbeat Minnie Riperton vibe. When I was writing I kept going back to this one memory of a boy I worked with, just this one morning when he was running late, bowling through the playground with such a confidence and an air about him. He had his older sister’s leopard-print coat, a pink lunchbox, these ankle-swinger trousers with no socks on. Some of the kids were saying stuff, but he was just head forward, bowling through, didn’t care.”

That “upbeat Minnie Ripperton vibe” is about as summery and funky as you get, filled to the brim with an easy flow, harmonies stacked to high heaven, and an absolutely infectious energy. As the sonic elements keep slipping and sliding around each other, Culpepper unleashes a series of increasingly rousing vocal lines, culminating in a falsetto run that can send shivers through you.

The Vaccines – ‘Headphones Baby’

The Vaccines have returned with their energetic new single ‘Headphones Baby’. The track is the first snippet from the album and it doesn’t disappoint. The production on the track feels current, and The Vaccines certainly aren’t resting on any laurels. The group’s penchant for a blistering chorus exists on the buoyant new single that’ll float around in your mind for the rest of the day.

The Vaccines are yet to announce their forthcoming record officially, but I suspect the wait isn’t too far away. Hayward-Young told Far Out earlier this year that he believes it’s the band’s “best record” yet and gave a glimpse of what fans should expect from Vaccines 5.0.

“It’s got the heaviest moments maybe ever, it’s got a lot more fast moments, but it’s also much more pop in a lot of ways,” he explained. “In a weird way, I feel like it’s an amalgamation of all of our records if that makes sense, but the first thing we’re releasing is probably the poppiest thing on it, then there’s some like pretty, like face-melting moments on it too. There’s like eight or nine of the songs have riffs, which is quite rare for us.”

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